George Cardinal Pell, former Bishop of Melbourne, former Archbishop of Sydney, and current head of the Secretariat of the Economy at the Vatican, has been charged with what are being called “historic” acts of sexual abuse. The specifics of those acts have not been disclosed as of yet. The Cardinal strenuously denies the accusations and has said that he looks forward to clearing his name.
Cardinal Pell has been charged before in committing acts of sexual abuse and in attempting to cover up the acts of others. Past inquiries determined that none of those charges were substantiated.
I don’t know much about Cardinal Pell. I don’t have a link to share on the matter because it’s been near impossible to find one that is objective, even among so-called news articles and certainly not among opinion pieces.
Three things I do know:
- Everyone has a right to a fair trial, which means the presumption of innocence until guilt is proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
- If Cardinal Pell is exonerated, he has a right to live the remainder of his life in freedom, which includes freedom from suspicion. Being accused does not mean being guilty. Too often, especially in cases such as child abuse, reputations are destroyed even while innocence is proved. That should not happen.
- If Cardinal Pell is proved guilty, he should go to jail. No one is above the law.
When I was about the age of 13 I was sexually accosted by someone close to me. The details aren’t important. He was not much older than I and he was not an authority figure, so the scars were not so deep.
About a dozen years ago, I was falsely accused of hurting a child, though not sexually. Again, the details aren’t important. Suffice it to say that the real culprit was quickly identified, so that it was never even necessary for me to speak with the authorities on the matter. The real culprit had accused me in an effort to point the authorities away from her. They didn’t believe her and evidence of her own guilt was overwhelming. But, the accusation had gotten around and was believed by some others who didn’t otherwise know me.
In cases like this, I can’t help but think of the many children whose exploitation never comes to light, is never addressed seriously, either out of fear or because they aren’t taken seriously, or because the one who abused them is very powerful or very popular, or because the authorities themselves fear the consequences of taking action. I think of the horror sustained by the children exploited by judas priests and their bishops who covered up abuse, claiming they wanted to “protect the Church,” when all they really wanted to do was cover their own asses. I think of the horror sustained by the victims of Rotherham, England, whose sexual exploitation in a massive sex ring operation was well known but ignored by the police. Why? Because the perpetrators were Pakistani and the police didn’t want to be branded racists. Children offered on the altar of political correctness. As far as I know, none of the officials who ignored what they knew were ever held responsible, except a Council leader who was forced to resign.
I think, too, of the many lives destroyed in the mayhem of the daycare hysteria back in the 1980s and 90s, the McMartin Preschool case being the most famous. Wild accusations were made with absolutely no evidence to substantiate them. Yet, people were convicted and incarcerated. Reputations were destroyed and even lives lost. “Children don’t lie!” was the mantra, though we know they do when it means telling the grown ups what they want to hear. There were hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of accusations made by dozens of children. Surely the abundance of accusations and the large number of children making them proved that something must have happened. But, no. Nothing happened. Nothing more than the age-old pattern of piling-on and the refusal to acknowledge the truth before one’s very eyes. Even now, years after the record has been set straight, there are those accusers who hold to their story and those who believe them. It was only last month that Dan & Fran Keller were officially exonerated by Texas after their 1992 convictions were overturned. Though freed in 2013 after spending 21 years in prison, it still took Texas over three years to own up to the mistake.
I hope that in the case of Cardinal Pell the truth will win out, regardless of what that truth is. The truth is its own balm.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.